Pakistan's Battlefield Nuclear Policy: A Risky Solution to an Exaggerated Threat

Publication Date: 
February 2015
Description: 
International Security, Vol. 39, No. 3
Project: 
Nuclear Past, Present and Future Project
Document Type: 
Articles and Op-Eds
Pakistan has introduced a new battlefield nuclear weapon, Nasr, into its arsenal. Nasr, a short-range ballistic missile, was first flight-tested in 2011. Pakistani leaders have declared that the weapon is meant to deter India from executing its Cold Start war doctrine. The doctrine was conceived by members of India's army and its strategic community in 2004 as a solution to perceived operational shortcomings of the army in responding to major terrorist incidents involving Pakistanis. It recommends the positioning of smaller army units at the international border with the capability to rapidly invade Pakistan and occupy narrow slices of territory, while denying Pakistan the ability to anticipate the attack and to immediately assemble a counterattack force. The Cold Start war doctrine, however, has since been publicly disavowed by the Indian government, and the Indian army has not reorganized or equipped its troops in a manner consistent with the doctrine. Further, the use of battlefield nuclear weapons inside Pakistan or near the densely populated border regions could potentially cause civilian casualties in the tens of thousands. These factors should dissuade Pakistan from deploying the Nasr missile.